The TL;DR: American Airlines has overhauled how people earn elite frequent flyer status. You can now earn status not only from flying, but from other activities, like spending money with an American Airlines credit card.
Few industries have been turned upside down quite as much as aviation recently, and unlike others which are now getting back on their feet, air travel will continue to evolve at a rapid clip, for years to come.
Between pressure to be more environmentally friendly and issues around rebooting global business travel, the landscape looks quite different now. There’s perhaps few places where that’s more true than at American Airlines, currently.
Out of the blue, the program launched a major refresh, changing everything about how you earn elite status, are even what the mechanism is called (they’re now loyalty points), as well as how to earn and activate perks as you move through the ranks of the program.
Because it’s not your job to learn acronyms, and you shouldn’t need to earn a PhD in order to understand programs which are designed to be easy, fun and beneficial, here is a concise, easy guide to the new American Airlines AAdvantage Loyalty Program.
Glossary Of The New American Airlines AAdvantage Program
I’m still convinced that acronyms were created to make people feel smarter than they are, so we’ll avoid them at all costs here. But, to understand what’s changed and what the things we’re discussing are actually about, let’s define some terms.
Gone are Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM’s) and Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD’s) and in are new “loyalty points”. “Loyalty Points” are the new term for the points earned each year that define whether someone is a general member, a Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro or Executive Platinum. They aren’t spent the way redeemable “miles” are.
They just tell you how you stack when it comes to travel perks and upgrades. I fret to think how much American spent on consultants to tell them that “loyalty points” tested very well in focus groups, and was found to be highly understandable.
American Airlines Loyalty Points
This is the new catch all for all “elite status” earning activity with American Airlines. In a major, and actually eco-friendly change, it’s easily possible to earn elite status from spending now, and not just from flying. A mix of the two also works, very-very well!
Yep, most of the things you do to earn with American will now count towards your elite status tally, not just the days spent in the air, like before! If you bought a couple Tesla’s on your American Airlines credit card, you’d have top tier status right away.
Whether via credit card spending, actually flying on planes, or anything else which earns these new American Airlines Loyalty Points, they are the basis for earning elite status.
Because spending now counts, the point thresholds for new tiers have been increased as below. Don’t worry, all will be explained. Here’s how many Loyalty Points you’ll need for each tier with American Airlines.
- Gold: 30,000 Loyalty Points earned
- Platinum: 75,000 Loyalty Points earned
- Platinum Pro: 125,000 Loyalty Points earned
- Executive Platinum: 200,000 Loyalty Points earned
New Dates: a huge thing to note is a March through February calendar for earning status. Your earning year starts in March and ends in February.
According to American Airlines, this will allow people not to worry about hitting status at the end of the year and to have holiday spending count towards status, since it will reflect on statements in January, and will count in Feb toward end of year.
For this first year, and first year (only) American Airlines will also count Jan and Feb 2022 toward the marks for 2023. Everyone’s status is being extended to March 2022, and anything you earn in Jan or Feb 2022 will count for your earning that ends Feb 2023. You’re getting 2 bonus months to achieve higher status.
You still also earn redeemable American Airlines Miles, too
Before we get into the nitty gritty of status earning, it’s important to point out that none of this Loyalty Points stuff really changes earning American Airlines Award Miles, which you can subsequently use to spend on flights and other things.
You still earn these (separate) Award Miles with all the multipliers, cabin bonuses and sign up offers that you did before. So for example, whereas spending on an American Airlines card only earns 1 Loyalty Point per dollar spent, if it typically earns 3X bonus miles, you still get 3X bonus miles like before.
If a credit card welcome bonus offers 100,000 American Airlines Award Miles, those will also be the same as before, but that bonus won’t count toward loyalty points.
These (award miles) are the kind of miles you can spend, loyalty points are not.
Loyalty Points and (redeemable) Miles are separate concepts, like Avios and Tier Points for British Airways. Your Award Miles don’t reset every year, but your Loyalty Points do. For the purpose of earning status through flying, the rate at which you earn happens to be the same for both now.
What Counts For Earning American Airlines Loyalty Points?
In short, about 5 different activities will count towards earning perks and elite status with American Airlines under the newly formed program.
Flying counts towards Loyalty Points, based on what you spend, not where you go, for flights on American. If you already have elite status, you earn Loyalty Points at a better rate than if you don’t, so it’s not an easy program to break into, but good once in.
Based on the earning table (above) for flights booked with American Airlines, a (current) general member would earn 5X miles and Loyalty Points per dollar spent on American, while a top tier would earn 11X.
A $1,000 flight ticket would earn 5,000 Loyalty Points and Award Miles for a general member. For a current top tier Executive Platinum elite, they’d instead be rewarded with 11,000 of each.
Flights booked and flown on partners earn differently, based on miles traveled.
This makes the math on qualifying for status based on spend alone (particularly if starting from scratch) very steep. It would cost over $27K in flights to earn top tier Executive Platinum from scratch, if done only with flying. That’s nearly double what it currently requires.
Obviously, spending on credit cards, dining out and other activity could significantly reduce this burden, but it’s worth a mention, since top tier Executive Platinum status previously cost $15,000 a year to earn. The good news is that you get more ways to solve the problem, than just flying.
In fact, to earn the base perks of top tier, you don’t even have to fly, anymore.
Spending on American Airlines co-branded credit cards counts toward your Loyalty Point total, but based on one loyalty point per dollar spent, not any extra bonus miles earned with a given card. Again, redeemable miles earn similarly but separately.
Online purchases made through the American e-store also count, as do those from Rewards Network (dining) and SimplyMiles.
To recap, you earn American Loyalty Points for…
- Flying with American, Oneworld Airlines or JetBlue
- Spending on an American Airlines co-branded credit card
- Shopping online through the AAdvantage e-store, with your fave stores.
- Dining out through Rewards Network’s American Airlines partnership.
- Shopping via SimplyMiles, utilizing spending offers in the app.
These 5 methods above are the core platform for earning American Airlines elite status each year, and the perks that come with them.
Yes, you will need to earn more Loyalty Points to hit status than before (bad?!), but there are more ways to earn them (good?!).
This is American cleverly herding people further into their ecosystem, by rewarding those who not only fly American, but hold their credit cards and shop online through their portals. All Citi and Barclay’s American Airlines cards count, with one Loyalty Point per dollar spent.
Sadly, but understandably, sign up bonuses for credit cards do not count toward Loyalty Point totals, but obviously do get added to redeemable miles balances.
Earning Loyalty Choice Rewards
Loyalty Choice Rewards is the new term for the customizable perks members can receive as they move into Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum ranks. They’re also the term for where all the “good stuff” can be found.
Someone can hit Executive Platinum, and therefore Oneworld Emerald status with spending alone, but unless they’re also an elite flyer, they won’t unlock all the previous perks of Executive Platinum, such as the benefits you get to choose once you acquire.
This is a bit of a “shrug”. The idea of pledging either $200,000 of spending, and or quite a bit of flying, all to earn only basic benefits, and not things you received before, such as ‘Systemwide Upgrades’, is pretty disappointing.
To earn these additional “choice” perks under the new system, you’ll need to fly at least 30 flight segments(!) on American and its partners. For context, British Airways requires at least 4 segments on British Airways metal (planes), but just 4 — not 30!
In some ways, this will make actual road warriors happy, because you need to sit your butt into a lot of plane seats to earn the most valuable “juice” from this “squeeze”. In other ways, people who don’t travel frequently, but spend heavily when they do will be frustrated that they’re being punished for not taking bi-weekly trips.
Under the new system, people will earn new and more varied “choice” benefits at each of the following thresholds, but only if they have 30 flight segments. Otherwise, they’ll simply continue to benefit from the nuts and bolts of status, like domestic upgrades and partner perks.
- 125,000 points (Platinum Pro)
- 200,000 points (Executive Platinum)
- 350,000 points
- 550,000 points
- 750,000 points
Somewhat oddly, American hasn’t (yet) been overly transparent about what benefits will be available at each tier. With all the extra behavior they’re now asking for to reach status, you’d think they’d want to shout from the rooftops about new benefits.
One can only hope that things such as System Wide Upgrades would have easier use in redeeming them, thus making them more worth earning.
American Airlines Loyalty Points: Hit, Or Miss?
If you’re heavily invested in the American Airlines ecosystem, from credit cards to regular flights, this is largely a good day. A more equitable system which rewards all loyalty has been launched.
For people scraping by to make status every year, it’s not as good of a day, unless the wallet can now do the rest of the work. This is a program, which much like United, now says “show me the money”. It’s not perfect, but it’s not all bad.
Tie breaks for upgrades will now be decided based on a numerical number: the total number of loyalty points you have in your account. That means two top tier elites will come down to whoever has earned just slightly more, as a tie breaker.
Restricting choice benefits to people who actually fly frequently will weed out some of the competition, yet having more people hitting status will swell the overall ranks.
There are many things to like with this new program for those willing to “dive in” but for casual loyalty, this is now a large ask. Perhaps, that’s exactly the loyalty point(s).